The recent pre-dawn transfer of ailing Chen Shui-bian from a locked psychiatric unit at Veteran’s Hospital in Taipei to Taichung Prison against the medical advice of all of Chen’s doctors has led to calls on April 23 for the Taiwanese medical community and international legal community to denounce the conditions of Chen’s imprisonment. The forced move caused the depressed Chen to attempt suicide by hanging from a doorknob with a shirt around his neck.
Chen Shui-bian, former president of the Republic of China in-exile from 2000 to 2008, is serving a lengthy prison sentence for alleged corruption following a conviction in a controversial no-jury trial. Many have charged that Chen is a political prisoner, incarcerated because of his opposition to Ma Ying-jeou’s drift toward the People’s Republic of China which claims Taiwan as a renegade province. Chen’s harsh prison treatment in a tiny punishment cell without even a bed has broken his spirit and health. Chen has been confined in the hospital for six months for several medical problems including severe depression and a degenerative neurological illness.
Dr. Lai Chi-wan, chairman of the Taiwan Medical Accreditation Council, made a public call on Taiwan’s medical community to step forward and voice concern over Chen Shui-bian’s human rights to medical care. In an open letter published in the Liberty Times today Dr. Lai stated his concerns.
“I would like to call on all medical professionals and associations in Taiwan to stand up and tell Ministry of Justice and Ma Ying-jeou that you are angry with their disrespect for human life and rule of law,” wrote Dr. Lai.
During the rushed transfer of Chen Shui-bian no treatment plan was developed for the prison by Chen’s doctors, as is standard procedure; and Chen’s prescribed medication was ignored by prison staff and left behind.
Dr. Lai explained why this is important and raises his concern:
“The patient must be given sufficient prescribed medicine to carry along. In this way, we can be assured that any risks of medical accidents and delays could be minimized. This is also an important metric for evaluating the quality of patient safety and medical care as well as the professionalism of a hospital.”
“I would like to call on all fellow medical professionals in Taiwan that we shall not tolerate this "rogue" behavior of the Ministry of Justice to toss aside professional medical opinions…. Professional medical opinion should not be disregarded and medical human rights must be protected. Ma's government must handle President Chen's medical care in a transparent and legal way,” concluded Dr. Lai in his appeal.
Meanwhile, in the United States, a former attorney of Chen Shui-bian issued a public call to the international legal community to raise alarm at the actions of Ma Ying-jeou’s administration. Jonathan Levy, an international litigator, released a public statement condemning mistreatment of Chen:
“I am appealing to the international legal community to support the immediate medical parole of Chen Shui-bian from prison. I am asking all legal professionals to register their concern with the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the influential US representative organization in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan.”
“President Chen was instrumental in bringing democracy to Taiwan which languished under the Kuomintang dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek and his cronies for more than 40 years. Mr. Chen brought rule by civil society to Taiwan, he deserves to be paroled and/or pardoned and his legacy honored,” said Levy.
“Mr. Chen and his wife survived assassination attempts but never abandoned their dedication to democracy. When the Kuomintang again came to power, this time via the ballot box, they wasted no time launching a legal vendetta against Mr. Chen and his family,” said Levy. “He was imprisoned for trumped up economic crimes under the harshest conditions possible not befitting a man of his stature. Now that he is gravely ill, he continues to be treated worse than a war criminal.”
Levy concluded: “A few days ago Mr. Chen attempted suicide. An immediate medical parole must be provided by his jailers, the Kuomintang government of Taiwan. Failure to do so indicates that the intentions of the Kuomintang government are dishonorable and undemocratic.”